Impasses in Mediation: Creativity against time. Washington DC, USA

Uncategorized Apr 12, 2018

Last week, I flew to Washington DC to present to lawyers and mediators a new workshop I designed for exploring and practicing creativity to overcome impasses in mediation. I have been investigating the topic for more than 3 years, for my Master's research. What is creativity, really? How is it relevant for dispute resolution? Can lawyers be creative too when negotiating for their clients? In this hour-long experiential session, my objectives were to invite participants to explore conflict resolution under time pressure, develop creativity in conflict resolution, and experience improvisation as a skill that fosters creativity.

If you are a conflict resolution expert and a lawyer seeking to better help your clients in dispute resolution, I invite you to read and share these 3 tips to increase your chances of success in mediation and to bring more value to your clients.

When welcoming participants of the American Bar Association to my workshop, I warned with humor that this would be a highly practical workshop to experiment creativity; And not only that but also to experiment improv games to develop improvisation skills. I notified them it was still fine to opt out if experimenting those very new topics was too daunting. As I went on asking if they ever had to change plans in the course of mediations, and saw all hands up in the air, I recommended they would all benefit to learn about how to generate creative ideas to overcome impasses and to adjust on the spot. Not only I had a full house, but every one actively participated, and now you can discover how.

1. Use creativity to generate multiple ideas 

Creativity in conflict resolution deals with generating ideas. What types of ideas are considered creative? How to best generate those creative ideas? Creative outcomes need to meet three criteria: Novelty, relevance, and originality. For participants to learn through practice, the session started straight away with a fast-paced ice-breaker designed to make participants explore their own creativity. Working in groups, they had a challenge to complete, coming up with a definition of dispute resolution with different sets of words of their choice.

All teams experimented fervent interactions very similar to a mediation context,  generating multiple ideas as they were invited to choose their sets of three words at times alone, at other times as a group. They all managed to reach a common outcome by integrating each other’s ideas and at the same letting go of one’s initial positions. First challenged completed! Next one.

2. Apply a creative loop to solve the real problem 

Knowing more about creativity does not necessarily means one can use it effectively in context, especially in the complexities of dispute resolution. To reduce the gap between theory and practice, participants were invited to experiment in a series of fast-paced exercises, also designed to have them experience time pressure. Doing so, they started to develop the skills to find creative ideas and to enhance them working in a group. In the ice-breaker I presented earlier, participants overcome impasses by being spontaneous, attentive and flexible, which ultimately led them to a group solution to solve the challenge. 

To be even more efficient in overcoming impasses, I presented a creative loop model I developed as a dynamic approach designed to overcome impasses in mediation: First by identifying the "real" problem at stake, which is often hidden behind positions in mediation; Second by generating creative ideas that are novel, relevant and original; And third by applying them instantly using an improvisational approach, with spontaneity, attentiveness and flexibility. While an idea is nothing more than an idea until it is executed upon, improvisation is truly the perfect medium to create such creative ideas and to implement them on the spot.

3. Improvise a solution by taking action of your creative ideas

Solving a problem requires taking action. Not just any type of action. An action that is intended to solve the right problem, quickly. So the question arises again as to what is the real problem blocking the situation. To experiment that, I invited participants to experiment improvisation as a tool to foster creativity through storytelling. In pairs, they were invited to share stories of a mediation that had arrived at an impasse and to mention the challenges they faced and the solutions they found. Using a simple communication technique inspired by an improv game called  “Yes, but...” / “Yes, and...” participants learned more about the impact of positive versus negative communication to make conflict resolution move forward more effectively.

Overall, the training was a one-hour glimpse of the vast potential of both creativity and improvisation in conflict resolution, in order to better equip lawyers and mediators alike with the tools and skills they need to be more efficient at reaching better agreements. Hence, the importance to develop creativity through the practice of improvisation, in order to listen attentively to the needs, to come up with fresh ideas quickly and to overcome those impasses more effectively.

For Tessa to help you solve conflict more effectively and to learn creativity in a dispute resolution, also through improvisation, please send an email now to: [email protected] and we will get back to you.  


Stay updated with upcoming news and events.


50% Completed

Enter your name and email to stay updated.  

We do not spam you. Your information remain confidential. You can unsubscribe anytime.